Life of Pi Author Letter

Jan 8, 2016

I am sure that many have read or at least watched the movie, Life of Pi. If you haven’t, I highly recommend you do so, but for those who have, you know the unanswered question the book leaves. Piscine’s tale of being stranded in the Pacific Ocean with a bengal tiger among several other animals, or his tale of being stranded in the Pacific Ocean with a murderer among several other humans, are both relayed in the novel,but it is never given as to which story is true. In both stories, the same events happen, and he lives to survive these horrific moments, surviving to tell both tales to two Japanese officers exploring the shipwreck that nearly caused his death. They believe that Pi’s delirium caused him to make up the animal story, and therefore do not believe its credibility, but they are horrified by the human story, and while they don’t believe the animal version, this is the one they publish. Author Yann Martel leaves the truth to be decided to the reader, and I decided to send a letter to Martel to see his opinion on his open-ended dilemma. Below is the excerpt of my letter, but in the end, the answer only ever be decided by opinion. It’s a fascinating crisis of the mind, one between empathy and logic that can never be explored enough.

Dear Mr. Yann Martel,
In regards to Life of Pi I would first like to thank you for providing a novel that was not only a pleasure to read, but a reality-shattering experience as well. Piscine Patel has filled my heart and soul with his humorous whimsicality and introspective mind---his, and therefore perhaps your view on the innuendos of life have kept me up late into the night. Sometimes, all one craves to read is an electrifying story of a boy who defies all odds, even death itself. I would like to add, however, that your novel not only satisfied this appetite for thrill, but made me look within myself and contemplate the most stigmatized topics that you addressed with tasteful poise. As Pi himself said, I joined him in oblivion and back from the very first page.
I would like to call attention to the main reason I am writing you this letter. Fifteen years ago, you presented two chillingly beautiful tales to describe the same event. I am sure I am not the first person to have asked this, nor the last, but I am left with the resounding question of which one is real. This, I’m sure, is what you hoped that any reader will take out of your story, but I am quite interested as to which you believe is the real tale. Of course, you meant it to be this excruciatingly open-ended, and perhaps you have no opinion on the situation, but as a writer-in-training myself, I know that an author is never finished with a story. After over a decade, I’m sure your opinion on the matter has evolved; an author’s words are never set in stone.
Of course as an idealist, I want to believe the animal story. I want to think the unthinkable and wonder in inordinate stupefaction about the dream of tiger and man living in peace. This sense of utopia quells the logical part of my mind, a part that needs to be stifled at times, and I’m grateful that for the briefest moment you provided me that unperturbed reverie. However, whatever faith I had in fantasticality ceased when the toxic rationalization we all possess consumed my dream. Reality seems to bring all of us to a standstill when what was once blissful ignorance is turned into questioning paranoia. Even in fiction, how could such a situation be possible? Against my will, I find myself falling into the very same hole of doubt that Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba were buried in.
So, Mr. Martel, what do you believe? In the perfect world which should live, rationality, or euphoric ideality? Is this battle between the mind something you hope keeps every reader up to unhealthy hours of the morning, because if so, I find the fatigue less than desirable. It is not necessarily a definite answer that I seek, because I know that such is not possible, but more insight into the creator of the dilemma’s mind himself. In any case, I would like to thank you at least for taking me to oblivion; it was a wonderful journey.
Yours sincerely,
Aneliese Baker, age 14